The eyes have it for new 'Star Wars' character Maz Kanata

Story highlights

  • J.J. Abrams, Lupita Nyong'o offer details on the new character Maz Kanata
  • The tiny alien wears large goggles, seems to impart Yoda-like wisdom

(CNN)When it comes to the new "Star Wars" character Maz Kanata, watch the eyes.

That's the message from director J.J. Abrams and star Lupita Nyong'o, who plays Kanata in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
"I had this pitch about these goggles that she wore," Abrams told Entertainment Weekly. "Her eyes are an important aspect of her character, and you'll see how it plays out."
    The character, who's visible in the center of the "Force Awakens" poster as a tiny, be-goggled creature, is computer-generated from Nyong'o's motion-captured performance. Her voice is heard in the "Star Wars" TV spot that premiered Sunday on Twitter.
    Nyong'o, who won an Oscar for her performance in "12 Years a Slave," told EW that Kanata's eyes were key to the work.
    "As an actor for films, your eyes are a lot of the way you communicate anyway," she said. "So it was definitely a gift to have that be the means to her magic as a motion-capture character."
    Nyong'o learned the ins and outs of motion-capture from the best: Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and has since established a digital studio, the Imaginarium. Serkis is also in "The Force Awakens," as Supreme Leader Snoke.
    "The biggest advice he gave me, that was so important to hold on to, is a motion-capture character you develop the same way as any other," Nyong'o said. "You have to understand who the character is and what makes them who they are."
    However, that doesn't mean she and Abrams are spilling any more details on Kanata than they have to.
    Abrams offered a few tidbits -- Kanata "was a pirate for a long time"; she's more than 1,000 years old; she owns a bar; she may offer Yoda-like wisdom -- but kept the rest under wraps.
    "All that backstory will be forthcoming," he said. "In the movie, you don't learn these things, but I know that these are things that are coming out in other venues."
    In the meantime, yet another "Star Wars" commercial released Thursday night. It doesn't appear to offer any more information on Kanata, but "Star Wars"-ologists can pick out details for themselves.
    The film opens on December 18.